by Max Brantley
The new governor of Ohio wants to put the brakes on the state's expanding charter school and voucher programs. This Columbus newspaper article might give you some idea why just saying "charter" doesn't make it better:
Now, with nearly 9,000 students receiving vouchers and 70,000 attending charter schools, the programs are at a crossroads: Have they helped Ohio's education system or hurt it?
A recent study by three national groups that support charter schools found that reading-test scores of students attending charters and those in traditional public schools in Ohio's eight urban districts were nearly identical.
On last year's state math test, public-school students did better, with 43.6 percent deemed proficient, compared with 41.1 percent of charter students. The report was commissioned by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
Annual report cards issued by the Ohio Department of Education paint a different picture.
Last year, excluding those that did not get a rating, 49 percent of charter schools were in academic watch or emergency, the equivalent of a D or an F, compared with 2 percent of traditional public schools in Ohio.
"I think they've fallen short on the academic performance," said Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta, who was among those asking critical questions of school-choice supporters last week.
Misuse of tax dollars is another issue. Several charters have closed because of money problems, including Harte Crossroads High School and Harte Crossroads Academy. The schools, which were in Columbus City Center, shut down last month with $1.6 million in debt.